Skip to main content

Winter Trails and Naturalists Tales

winter trails logo
Event Date(s)
Event Time
Torstenson's Education Center

Embrace winter's beauty through outdoor exploration and indoor inspiration at the University of Illinois Extension's Winter Trails & Naturalist Tales from 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, January 27, 2024. Winter Trails & Naturalist Tales will be held at Torstenson's Education Center, 13735 Cook Road, Pecatonica, and includes three "naturalist tales" keynote speakers and a "winter trails" hike/bird watching.

The first naturalist tale will be presented by Connie McIntosh and will focus on Myth Busting Nature. We've all heard misconceptions about our local wildlife that we may believe as fact.  During this program, we are going to bust those myths and gain a better understanding of the natural world.  Join us to clear up the most common myths, uncover lesser-known facts, and have fun playing Fact or Fiction as we learn about nature in Rockford.

The second naturalist tale will be presented by Joni Denker and will focus on  More Than Playgrounds at Rockford Park District. Information will be shared on the many natural areas that are part of the Rockford Park District and provide details about the many conservation efforts she leads.

The third naturalist tale will be presented by Tricia Bethke and will focus on Too Much or Not Enough Water: What's Wrong with My Oak Trees? Oak trees are stressed and responding to changing weather patterns.  Join Tricia Bethke for a discussion on how wet days and dry days affect oak trees and learn why they are now labeled 'sensitive' trees.  The session will cover oak diseases, pests, new research, and management recommendations to keep our oak trees healthy.

Our Presenters:

CONNIE MCINTOSH is a University of Illinois Extension Master Naturalist.  Connie is a lifelong resident of the Rockford region and has been interested in learning about nature since childhood.  She has been a Master Naturalist and nature photographer since 2012.  Over the past 10 years, she has presented programs throughout the community on nature-related topics.  Connie participates in Citizen Scientist projects such as frog and bat monitoring.  She also serves as an Education Volunteer at Severson Dells Nature Center.

JONI DENKER is the Conservation Supervisor for the Rockford Park District.  She leads the seasonal Natural Areas team on varied projects, including the restoration of prairies, wetlands, and woodlands.  She identifies and documents non-native plant species, cuts, mows, or hand pulls. She Identifies and collects seeds of native plant species for use in restoration projects and seed sharing.

TRICIA BETHKE is the Forest Pest Outreach Coordinator for the State of Illinois. Her position is funded through a cooperative grant with USDA APHIS. Tricia’s responsibilities include statewide training of key stakeholders on invasive species, forest pest identification, regulations and quarantines, and reporting protocols. Tricia coordinates and instructs tree identification, pest detection, and tree health monitoring programs. Her passion is all things related to galls, especially tree galls.


Winter Trails and Naturalist Tales costs $20 per person, including three speakers and a self-guided outdoor hike. Pre-registration is required by January 25, 2023.

Winter Trails & Naturalist Tales

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Torstenson's Education Center

13735 Cook Road, Pecatonica, IL

8:30 a.m.    Registration and coffee/tea

9:00 a.m.  Welcome by Margaret Larson, County Director
9:05 a.m.  Naturalist Tale:  Connie McIntoshMaster Naturalist
11:00 a.m. Naturalist Tale:  Joni Denker, Rockford Park District 
12:00 p.m. Lunch will be provided
12:30 p.m. Naturalist Tale: Tricia Bethke, Morteum Arboretum

1:30 p.m. Self-guided hike/bird watching

If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate, please contact